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Canada Green Building Council pilot project teaches valuable lessons

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by Saul Chernos

With a Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) pilot for existing buildings scheduled to reemerge this fall as a full-fledged program, several participants say they plan to use the knowledge they’ve gained to work internally on energy and environmental measurement and performance.

Green Building

With a Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) pilot for existing buildings scheduled to reemerge this fall as a full-fledged program, several participants say they plan to use the knowledge they’ve gained to work internally on energy and environmental measurement and performance.

The federal government, five provinces, 20 municipalities, 31 school boards, 14 commercial landlords and four utilities were involved in the 2008 launch of a trio of pilots aimed at establishing performance benchmarks for government administration buildings, commercial offices and schools.

Ron Lemaire, vice-president of market development with the CaGBC, says participants have helped develop and test tools and resources, set design standards and establish best-management practices, and the three pilots are now ready for the marketplace.

“It’s an integrated tool that lets owners and managers look at the full integrated life-cycle and understand how they can improve their buildings in an action-oriented way,” Lemaire says.

“They can benchmark and analyze where they stand and then go through a process of creating a green performance-based plan.”

Data gathered through the pilot revealed significant potential for energy savings.

Government performed the best, with 63 administration buildings cutting their energy use by 4.0 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 3,400 tonnes. The office sector followed, with 57 buildings cutting their energy use by 2.4 percent and gas emissions by 4,100 tonnes, while 114 schools managed just 1.7 percent in energy savings and 269 fewer tonnes of gas emissions.

Lemaire says the three pilots will flow through to the new Green Building Performance Initiative (GBPI) and run under the umbrella of Green Up, which the CaGBC plans to launch formally at its summit this month.

The GBPI will include the Green Building Performance System (GBPS), with templates, performance standards and best practices, as well as workshops and other resources.

Owners and managers will continue to report data, which the CaGBC will aggregate and analyze, updating national performance standards and best practices for the GBPS.

Participants can then track ongoing energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions savings, calculate their carbon footprint and conservation potential, identify and plan improvements, and work towards LEED certification.

Cadillac Fairview found the pilot helpful as a dry run for LEED EB accreditation and an opportunity to have input into the standard, says Tom Kovendi, who oversees the company’s Toronto office portfolio.

In particular, Kovendi singles out a building performance audit tool that evolved from the pilot.

“It takes data from participating buildings, compares performance on a number of different measurable parameters such as base electrical demand, ventilation and building envelope, and shows what you need to do to move towards the best performing buildings in your category.”

The Ontario Realty Corporation plans to continue with eight buildings that ran in the pilot.

“They asked us for our two top-performing buildings and for the rest as a general snapshot of our portfolio as a whole,” says ORC senior sustainability program specialist Gavin Maher.

The pilot helped the ORC use documents to better understand energy efficiency compared to other, similar users, Maher says “We were able to track billings at utility-specific levels and see that a particular building might be performing well against the baseline with regards to electricity consumption, but from a thermal gas standpoint not so well.”

While the ORC welcomes a seat with other like-minded parties at the CaGBC table, Maher says it also plans to launch its own internal pilot to prepare for the new LEED EBOM (Existing Building Operation and Maintenance) standard.

The Toronto District School Board included 10 relatively new schools in the pilot.

However, David Percival, manager of design, standards compliance and environment, says the TDSB has 600 buildings, many dating to the 1950s and 60s, and plans to withdraw so it can concentrate on enhancing the functionality of its own internally-developed web-based energy database tool.

“We couldn’t justify investing money to bring these 10 schools up to certification when we have massive needs in the remainder of the schools,”

Percival said. “It was a question of investing money and the best way to do that.”

Still, Percival says, the TDSB has two LEED-certified schools, is seeking Gold on a third, and considers its pilot participation worthwhile.

“There was value in seeing their methodology. We learned that we need to get a clearer benchmark measure for our schools so we can compare them and see which ones are underperforming. We also learned about things like lighting retrofits from other school boards.”

The CaGBC’s Ron Lemaire says he’s sorry to see anyone leave.

“If they have a system they feel will meet their needs and address the issue of reducing greenhouse gases and improve energy efficiencies, they have to look at the best way to utilize and spend their dollars within their current situation.

But we’ll still have the best tool in the market in two to three years to support buildings that come back into the program.”

Despite the economy, the CaGBC has expansion on its mind, with further pilots this fall for universities and colleges, arenas, and non-food retailers.

“For those that aren’t getting involved in the program phase we have others that are coming in. The market is very eager to get engaged.”

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